By Taavi Kotka, The CIO of Estonia
In today's digital age, a global economy defined by state borders no longer makes sense. Even small companies can market their goods and services across continents, digital nomads roam the world, and one business transaction can involve elements from five or more countries. Individuals who want to participate in this emerging global economy need a secure way to authenticate themselves online to prove who they are so that buyers and sellers will trust them. But are governments up to the task of providing us with global digital identities? Nope.
All we have is the inertia of physical passports, plastic ID cards and mutually incompatible electronic identities. At least this was the case before Estonia took its e-residency program to beta and offered a digital identity to anyone in the world, regardless of nationality.
This EU-country backed means of identification is as secure as a physical face to face meeting. E-residency helps developers and service providers easily authenticate customers online, comply with know-your-customer requirements and access a growing and worldwide market of verified e-residents. The Estonian government handles all of the backend work involved with recruiting and authenticating e-residents.
For entrepreneurs, the same infrastructure offers a convenient and entirely digital business environment: launching a company as an e-resident means location independence and a streamlined, business-friendly, legal infrastructure.
Estonia now offers a state run app store that may soon redefine how governments around the world interact with people. Our vision is that by 2025, Estonia will be home to an easily scalable digital society of 10 million e-Residents, nearly 8 times more than the country's number of physical residents.
The Need for Third Party Developers
In order to realize the full potential of a program like ours, we are inviting innovators from around the world to join us by integrating their services with the e-Residency platform. In February of this year, Nasdaq announced the pilot of shareholder e-voting for companies listed on Nasdaq's Tallinn Stock Exchange. Using the digital ID platform helps Nasdaq authenticate shareholders for e-voting service, streamlining a voting process that has historically been labor-intensive and fragmented. The transformative e-service empowers shareholders to engage with company executives and participate in crafting the future of the company.
Just this month, we announced a partnership with Stampery, a San Francisco-based blockchain certification and authentication service. E-residents can now quickly and safely authenticate and certify files via Stampery's own interface. This allows all of our e-residents from all over the world, to sign and seal everything from business contracts and professional negotiations to personal email communications and creative works.
The Future of Government-as-a-Service
We are on the brink of a future where businesses and individuals reside in the digital extension of countries around the world, each country competing to retain more e-residents and foster more economic growth. In the name of that bright future, Estonia is inviting developers from around the world to join it in building and benefitting from this future.
Or simply put: ask not what a country can do for you, ask what you can develop for a country.